North Mitrovica March 27, 2018. | Photo by Sasa Djordjevic for BETA

Kosovo Starts Census as Serb Parties Call for Boycott

Second census since independence gets underway – but Kosovo Serbs say they won't take part, as that would only confirm the government's 'shameful success in expelling Serbs'.

Kosovo’s second census since the declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 started on Friday, as Kosovo Serb political parties called for a boycott.

“We would like to say clearly to [PM] Albin Kurti and those who support him that the Serbian people will not participate in the upcoming fake census in his organization which he wants to confirm his shameful success in expelling Serbs,” Srpska Lista, the Belgrade-backed Kosovo Serb party announced on Friday, claiming that Kurti’s “regime” has “the goal of ethnic cleansing of everything Serbian from these areas”.

“Kurti wants to use this census to further attack Serbia with some claims for war compensation, which further discourages every Serb from being a part of this process,” the announcement continued, listing what it claims were various violations of Kosovo Serb rights by the government.

A smaller Serb party, Partija kosovski Srba (Party of Kosovo Serbs), announced on Thursday: “We are left with no other choice but to call on our fellow Serbs to: Boycott the upcoming census, do not give any data to the census teams, … This is not a population census, this is Albin Kurti’s wish to check the success of his repressive policy towards Serbs and see in the numbers how many Serbs he has managed to expel since 2021”.

On Friday, PM Kurti told a meeting of mayors that the census “will help us guide our policies as a government and you as a municipality. I call for dedication and commitment of the community, because it is necessary to address the needs of citizens without distinction. In the first population census for the first time, a questionnaire on war damages has been established”.

Apart from registering the resident population, the head count will include a separate registration of the Kosovo diaspora as well as of property that was damaged during the war for independence against Serbian forces. It is the first time that Kosovo hs attempted to register its big diaspora, which is estimated to number roughly half a million people.

Avni Kastrati, director of the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, told BIRN’s Kallxo Pernime TV programme on March 15 that “the census officer is obliged to appear three times at the same location …if they don’t find the citizen there, they will place a letter with a phone number and email stating that ‘when you are free, contact us for an interview’, citizens can schedule the time they want to be interviewed.”

Kastrati added that, based on the Law on Population and Housing Census, the agency “will refer any citizen who does not participate for registration to the court; the penalties range from 200 to 2,000 [euros], depending on the reason for not participating”.

Kosovo last collected population data in 2011, when the field work was done by the municipalities, not the Agency of Statistics. The Serb-majority municipalities of North Mitrovica, Zvecan, Zubin Potok, and Leposavic in the north boycotted the census, as did the municipalities of Gracanica and Strpce/Shterpce in the south a few days later.

There were no reports of fines being imposed against Kosovo Serbs who boycotted at the time, despite a 2010 law also providing fines for refusal.

Around 2,700 census collectors are involved in the process, along with about 700 supervisors and around 300 municipal employees. It will last until May 17.

05/04/2024 - 17:19

05 April 2024 - 17:19

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